Jan 23 2012

Crab Cioppino

Posted by     24 Comments    Posted under: Kitchen

We call it ‘blog fodder’ here in Blogtopia.

It can come in dribs and drabs; all shapes and sizes. It might be an image from months ago that keeps cycling on your slideshow or it could be a funny story told table-side with the kids.

There is never a shortage of blog fodder in my head. And yet I have not blogged. This random fact was thrown in there for good measure because it has catapulted me into a new realm of self-doubt. As if the old realm was not doubtful enough.

This past weekend, with a few serious deadlines looming for my monthly magazine article contributions, I figured there’d be loads of blog fodder to choose from and my mojo would be back in full swing and I’d get to blogging. I was right. The only problem I have now, is what to do with all the blog fodder.

It all started with me being a dumbass. This story can only get better folks.


Velvet Crab alive

Velvet Crab – alive

Instead of going to the place where I usually buy my fish I decided to cut some corners, saving on fuel and time in the process, by shopping at a fish store near the grocery shop.

Spying their nice large fish tank I caught a glimpse of several different types of crab. The smaller and sassier of the bunch being right on top. I asked the fishmonger, a young fella, what they were and he said ‘Velvet crab’. I, loosing all sense and sensibility which could be the segway into explaining exactly how dumb I really am, queried with raised eyebrow and hopeful intonation ‘Velvet crab as in soft shell crab?’ And he said ‘yep. Softshell’.

Six in the bag with care, because they are mean little buggers, along side a few firm pieces of hake and a few bags of mussels and clams, I drove home on cloud ninety nine dreaming of the po-boy sandwich I was going to get the Chef to make me for lunch. Salivating at the thoughts of the creole, cornmeal, and cajun flavours that were about to whirl around my (ha ha), ahem HIS kitchen, I could hardly wait to sit at the computer and start blogging-all-about it.

Except, and this is the important part showing my dumb-assed-ness, they weren’t really soft shell crabs, were they.

Velvet Crab dead

Velvet Crab – dead


The Chef, in his loves-to-humiliate-me kind of way, pointed out my grievous error as soon as I walked in the door. He may have even laughed a bit. Chef in his slow sarcastic drawl: ‘You’ve been had honey. These are hard as a rock. There ain’t no softshells in these cool Irish waters’. Me with my over-the-top-defensive-beeatch-tone :’ well ain’t is not a word and you can’t use ain’t no in a sentence as it is a double negative!

Sensing, and he is not very perceptive God love him, that I was on the brink of having a nervous breakdown over the crab disaster, he busied himself about the kitchen and put the little crabs to work.

First – he popped them into a bath of boiling saffron water and much to the childrens delight they turned a gorgeous orange colour. Then he fried some chicken. WTF?

Hey – I have to live with him so it is only fair that you be dragged along in his thought process.

The Fried Chicken

The Fried Chicken


So, eh, Chef. Why the fried Chicken? He gave me one of those looks that every woman loves to get from their husband. You know, the ‘Jesus, how thick are you?’ look.  So there I was, already annoyed and humiliated over my lack of knowledge when it came to ‘obvious differences?’ between velvet and soft shell crabs, racking my brains to come up with something, anything, smart to retort back to the saucy Chef. I had to redeem myself.

I am a slow thinker lads. Way too slow. Nothing. I just stood there.

‘Jambalaya crawfish pie and file gumbo’ he sang and danced me around the kitchen.

Grrr….it might have been obvious to him in his own head but NO ONE else would have put those two together! I mean, there are no crawfish in the shopping bag or prawns! Apparently, if you are the Chef, you can use whatever you want when making Jambalaya.

I gave up and slunk off like a battered slinky to collect my thoughts. I did a spot of ironing and felt all the better for it.

The smell of the brown roux engulfed the house and before you say ’cause tonight I’m a gonna see my machez a mio’… we were all sitting table side eating Cioppino. Yes. I really did write Cioppino.

I mean, he was eating Jambalaya. Here – look. It was lovely.




Yes. So back to the Cioppino. Well. This is how he works.

I have trouble digesting bell peppers. Not all the time, but when you cook ’em in a hurry and do not roast ’em they spend days trying to find there way out. So, I tend to steer clear of them. He knows this and is most sesnsitive to this.

Seeing as he had the saffron broth all set aside from steaming the crabs he decided to throw together a bowl of Cioppino for me. Because it is my favourite dish of all times. I was feeling the love.

Cioppino Love

Cioppino Love

This recipe uses a diavolo sauce. Click here for that recipe!

Crab Cioppino


  • Ingredients
  • 3 cups (720 ml) water
  • Fish bones
  • Trimming from a bulb of fennel
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) white wine
  • A nice pinch of saffron
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 lb (450 g) assorted fish, not smoked
  • 1/2 bag of mussels (scrubbed clean and de-bearded)
  • 1/2 bag of clams (scrubbed clean)
  • 8 oz (225 g) calamari (cut into rings)
  • 3 cups of Saffron broth (or clam broth/fish stock)
  • 1 bulb of fennel, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups (480 ml) diavolo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • A handful of chopped parsley


  2. Place all ingredients into a pot and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for a half and hour then strain.
  5. Season the fish on both sides and sauté in olive oil in a large pan.
  6. Deglaze with broth and add diavolo sauce.
  7. Add the sliced fennel.
  8. Throw in the mussels, clams and calamari and cover for a few minutes until the shell fish have opened up.
  9. Finish with butter and parsley
  10. Serve in a large bowl along side a loaf of homemade garlic bread.
  11. You can be flexible with the fish obviously. We used the crab. Just do not use smoked fish.
  12. Best served with a crisp white wine but beer works too. If you want to make it spicier then add more heat to the diavolo sauce.



So anyway, to make a long story even longer, what exactly happened to all the crab meat? I mean, there was a bit in the Jambalaya, and a bit in the Cioppino, but not huge chunks of it.


Smoky BBQ

Smoky BBQ Sauce


I was suspicious until all was revealed later that night for supper.  I am sure some of you have already guessed it.





Yep. Crabcakes. Perfect, round, delicious, dare I say ‘velvety’ freaking crabcakes.

Now, we all know why they are called ‘Velvet Crabs’.

Go home. Eat dinner with someone you love and laugh about this.


I remain, still clueless, on most topics.


Those are all the WiseWords I have for today and thank you all for being here!









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24 Comments + Add Comment

  • You have made me laugh with this story, Móna! After meeting The Chef, I can just hear him telling you that you’d been had!! The dishes look amazing, and I will have to try the Cioppino, as it sound like my kind of dish 🙂

    • Thanks Colette, I am glad you got a giggle out of this and yes, as you have met him
      In person I am sure you can picture him chiding me! They were all pretty good, I have to say.
      Again with the fish being so fresh it is hard to screw it up….and so y all of us ha ha ha!

      Thanks for the visit and the comment Collette. xx

  • Aaaaaah, all’s well that ends well! 🙂 I am pretty sure I would have made the same mistake (following the logic of “well why would the fishmonger lie about what type of crab it is?” Oy vey! Love the smorgasbord of dishes that came out of it all though! Crab cakes are one of my all-time faves 🙂

    • Thanks Jeanne. I almost phoned them to complain about the whole ‘crab confusion’
      but the kid that was working the counter was young and I just did not feel that he was entirely to blame…
      I ‘wanted’ them to be Softshell crabs… I was fairly impressed myself with all he squeezed out of it. We had friends over for a late lunch and they stayed for dinner! The crab cakes are one of my favourites too.
      And I have to say that crab meat was ever so tender xx

  • Son of a gun, ye had big fun…

    Love the look of that Jumbalaya and I had to wipe the dribbles from my computer screen after licking the chicken photo.

    • Ha ha ha … A well loved song I see xx
      And as for your computer screen I have a little packet of wipes to
      offer you for the clean up. Only problem is they are a weird colour… Kind of ‘magenta’
      But they’ll do nicely! See you soon Amee

  • I so love crab cakes…. and we are so so out of fish supplies here…. must be a due a trip to Galway! But seriously I can just see him…. giving you that look that you are so not with the program!!!! MEN!


    • Hello Margaret,
      You know that husbands go to school to learn these ‘looks’ I reckon.
      It seems like they all have it perfected. And if you are coming next week for the
      FOODIEforum maybe there will be time for some fish shopping too!

  • Everything about this post sounds madly delicious Mona…..esp cioppino! Can’t wait to meet you at the foodie forum! I will have to bring some fresh seafood home from Galway too. x

    • Yes – the Cioppino is my favourite. That is one of the very nice perks of living near the coast for sure.
      Now if only we could lighten the cloud coverage! And I am looking forward to next week too xx

  • I want a Chef. NOW!!!
    But if I can’t have a Chef, I’ll take the fried chicken. And the crabcakes.
    I’m not proud.

    • Ha ha ha – I love it.
      I can see you standing there with your shiny red shoes stomping your feet with arms crossed
      just WAITING to get what you want. You know, I always tell my girlfriends, they can borrow the Chef
      anytime. I am CERTAIN that he would be returned very fast . . . . xx

  • *…and slunk off like a battered slinky.* I just love that line, almost as much as I love this entire post. What a wonderful story teller you are Mona. This could be your Valentine’s post, it is so full of love and caring. You two are a lucky couple indeed.

    BTW, though I’m not a fish eater, shellfish or otherwise, all of this looks simply amazing.

    • Paula,
      I am moving to Canada. I can’t stand not living close enough to you to run over and give you a hug.
      Thank you for your adorable comment. You made my day xx
      AND – if you ever come to visit me on this side of the pond, we are going to have to do something
      about that fishy story of yours!

  • This just in from my lovely friend Hester Casey over at Hester Casey from the blog

    Simple Ingredients Magical Food … http://www.alchemyinthekitchen.ie/

    Hi Mona

    I’m having a problem posting a comment – I think it is my bad internet connection.

    If you can post on my behalf, what I wanted to say was…

    “Mona, my stomach wants to leave a comment. It said “rrrraaaarrrr” when I opened up all those delicious photos. Every woman should have a Chef of this quality. Lucky lady. I love this post. It made me smile – and think about crab a lot. xo

    • Hee hee hee – Hester, you are too cute!

      You know, if I were queen for a day I would make it so that every woman would have a Chef
      of this caliber at their beck and call….There.

      I too suffer from a wonky internet connection and feel your pain. Thank you my dear for sending this via email. xx

  • I have a fridgeful of ingredients here and I’m dashed if I can figure out for the life of me whether they are hardshell ingredients or softshell ingredients. How soon can the Chef whisk himself over here to turn them into plated marvels for me? I don’t mind about Looks or Smart Remarks while he works.

    • I have told him his snide remarks will be welcome in your kitchen Mise
      so his people will get in touch with your people and I am sure he will whip your
      ingredients into wonderful shape. I, will remain steadfastly on the sideline
      available to jump in to wash dishes if needed. xx

  • Well lesson learned about those darn crabs – but it certainly turned out well Mona. Beautiful photographs as always.

    • Welcome ‘home’ Lisa.
      I look forward to hearing all about your adventures!
      Yes, now I know all about velvet crabs and am still very sad there are
      no soft shells in sight!

  • Ummm delicious! I love your crab adventures, so much more exciting than my food shopping disasters! Lovely to have a post up from you, Happy New Year to you and that amazing cook of yours.

    • Happy New Year to you too Alex. I am lost in ‘book world’ it seems.
      No rest until after mid-March then back to blogtopia where it is safe and fun xx
      Happy New Year to you too. I hope you have enjoyed the very long month of January!

  • O haha Mona… If it’s any consolation; I would have been fooled too.. No idea what the difference is between soft shell and hard shell crabs. I know nothing about crabs! But hey those crabcakes look delicious as does the jambalaya as well and the cioppino..:)
    Love reading those stories!

    • You know – January is a bad ‘blogging’ month for me Simone. There is so much ‘catch up’ all round.
      It seems like taking a few weeks off over Christmas results in playing a month-long of catchup!
      Back to the serious blogging in February I hope xx Cooler weather happening here too.

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
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You can't find the Chef here.
You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.

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